HYDERABAD, Sept 13: For homeless and penniless survivors of flood, hunger became synonymous with Eid.Elderly people remained interested in cooked food or rations while children wanted Eidee, but there were few to distribute money among them.
None among survivors had imagined last year that they would have to celebrate Eid in the wilderness. While men had strong nerves to give vent to their feelings, women could not speak more; they failed to control their emotions.
One such middle aged woman was Mumtaz Umrani who could not fight back her tears which started rolling down her cheeks. And, ironically, there was no one to reassure her that situation would improve and she would return to her home in Jacobabad.
She was cooking a small quantity of chicken for her children on a handmade stove consuming wood as fuel and constantly trying to protect her eyes against smoke. By offering curry to her children, she, with a pinch of salt, tried to give them a feel that they are celebrating Eid.
Catastrophe that hit her home in the shape of flood in Garhi Khairo, Jacobabad, also cost her husband. She had no option but to escape from there with her children in a caravan of villagers leaving his body there. She landed in New Sabzi Mandi's relief camp only at the mercy of Allah Almighty.
“Apna ghar yad nahi aae ga bhai [why not we will recall our place called home brother!],” quipped Mumtaz when asked if she missed her home. She then wept for a couple of minutes until this scribe tried to console her that she should not lose hope.
And she looked to her son Ejaz with a hope but he is too young to offer any help to her mother financially. “He is just a child. I don't know what future holds for me,” said Ms Mumtaz.
As Ejaz took a sip from the curry cooked by her mother, she sat wearing unclean clothes on the first day of Eid in one of the corners of the camp.
Her son looked happy when a man offered him Rs5 as Eidee and she pointed currency note to this scribe to say this is how she managed to buy the small quantity of chicken for her children.
“Brother, we ate nothing since morning and we are sitting at the mercy of God,” were the words uttered by almost every survivor when this scribe spoke to them.
Eighty-year-old Malhar Lashari from Jacobabad is worried about her brother's family in Dera Murad Jamali. “What sort of Eid we are supposed to celebrate,” he said and started coughing as he suffers form asthma.
“I am here with just one pair of cloth and worried about my brother's family in Balochistan as his area is surrounded by floodwater,” Mr Lashari said.
Philanthropists like Dr Rasool Bakhsh Barham, consultant cardiac surgeon of NICVD of Karachi turned up in the camp with a huge quantity of biryani and distribute it among flood victims. Survivors offered Eid prayers in the camp organised by Dr Barham. Others distributed food in Jamshoro's Gulshan-e-Shahbaz and different relief camps of Hyderabad.
“Just visit my place in the camp and see for yourself the conditions we are living in,” argued Barkat Ali Shar, who hails from Shahdadkot. He kept making his points quite logically as to how things are being mismanaged in the Sabzi Mandi relief camp for lack of discipline.
“The local administration has no interest to run the camp smoothly. Resultantly people start quarrelling among themselves after failing to grab relief goods,” he complained.
Among survivors who have financial capacity to cook on their own appeared a little comfortable than those who are totally dependent on alms or goods brought by others.
Elderly Aasia Chandio looked too immersed in thoughts in one of the classrooms of Mehran School, Qasimabad. Still, she was ready to share her grief. “She said that she doesn't beg for anything because she cherished her self-respect.”
Children remained busy in different activities in the camp as a local singer Azeem Sarwar arrived there to entertain them and their elders by singing a couple of live songs for a Radio Pakistan's programme. Children sang some songs only to forget their sorrows and pain of homelessness for sometime.